NOEL KING, HOST:
Hondurans appear to have elected that country's first woman president. Voters rejected the ruling party and the current president, who's been tied to drug trafficking and other forms of corruption. NPR's Carrie Kahn is in the Honduran capital. Hey, Carrie.
CARRIE KAHN, BYLINE: Hi, good morning.
KING: What do we know at this point?
KAHN: Well, it appears that a former first lady, Xiomara Castro, has an insurmountable lead, possibly a 20-point lead, Noel. Electoral officials say all votes are not counted and urged candidates not to declare victory. Castro did that last night. Her opponent hasn't conceded, though. If the numbers hold up, this is a huge win for her and would usher in a leftist government for the country. Castro is the wife of a former president. In 2009, he was deposed by a military coup. He's quite a polarizing figure here, and opponents always try to tie her to him. Especially when he was president, he had close ties to Venezuela, and the opposition repeatedly equated a vote for her as a vote for communism. And it appears voters just rejected that tactic and were more focused on throwing out the current party.
KING: Why were they so focused on throwing out the current party? What has that party done?
KAHN: It - there is just widespread dislike - I'd say disgust - for the current party. And the current president, Juan Orlando Hernandez, he's been in power for eight years, and he's just trampled democratic institutions here. Corruption has soared, and organized crime has rose to the highest levels of government. The ruling party candidate, Nasry Asfura, couldn't overcome what's called here (speaking Spanish) a protest vote against the current government. I just want you to listen to Luis Ortega. He's a 33-year-old doctor I talked to, and he just told me over and over again what I heard from voters. He was voting against the current government and the current president, Hernandez.
LUIS ORTEGA: (Speaking Spanish).
KAHN: He just says, we're tired of the same, and he went through this long list - corruption, impunity, nepotism, abuses. He just went on. Hernandez is also named in court cases in New York investigating drug trafficking. His brother was recently convicted to international drug running, and he was sentenced to life in U.S. prison. Hernandez just denies any ties to the allegations, though.
KING: Given all of that, given the disgust, was turnout very high?
KAHN: It was amazing. It looks like it's in the high 60s, and this is in a country that has the lowest - just the lowest support for democracy in all of Latin America. Hondurans are disillusioned and fed up with democracy. They say it just doesn't work here. But the lines were long yesterday and the participation was high. Hondurans were worried about a repeat of what happened in 2017. Those elections were marred by fraud and violence. But voters I talked to, you know, overwhelming said they just didn't think their vote was going to be counted. Listen to Andres Treminio. He's 24, and he works in a U.S. call center here. He was even skeptical about new technology brought in to cut out the fraud.
ANDRES TREMINIO: I hope it works, but I still think they're going to find a way to make fraud. They always do.
KAHN: Despite some of the glitches, the technology did appear to have done its job. And what's also amazing about the turnout is that Central American in general is seeing a turn toward authoritarianism. And despite that grim, you know, wider outlook here, Hondurans put their faith in electoral politics.
KING: And that is extraordinary. Let me ask you, will the new president be in a position to fix the problems in Honduras?
KAHN: It's just going to be tough. The economy is in ruins here after the pandemic and back-to-back hurricanes last year. Record numbers of Hondurans have left the country in the past year, mostly for the U.S. And it's just expected that despite this election, those numbers will remain high.
KING: OK. NPR's Carrie Kahn in Honduras. Thank you, Carrie.
KAHN: You're welcome. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.